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Israel Begins Horrific Ground Invasion of Rafah, Reminding Everyone that Ethnic Cleansing was Always the Point

On Tuesday, Israel began its ground assault on Rafah, where over 1.5 million Gazans are sheltering after being displaced from their homes. The United States is continuing to enable Israel’s violence. The movement for Palestine still has the power to resist.

Sou Mi

May 8, 2024
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For over a million Palestinians on the Gaza strip, there is nowhere left to go.

On Tuesday, after taking command of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt and ordering Palestinians to evacuate eastern Rafah, the Israeli military launched a ground invasion on the southern Gazan city. As of Tuesday evening, Gazans reported heavy tank shelling in some areas of eastern Rafah in what Israel describes as a “limited operation”.

For months, 1.4 million Palestinians — including 600,000 children — have been sheltering in Rafah after being forced to flee their homes amid Israel’s genocidal assault of the strip following the events of October 7. The city of roughly 25 square miles is now the most densely inhabited place in the world, and has been transformed into a tent city of refugees who face conditions of famine. By taking control of both the Rafah and Kerem Shalom checkpoints in southern Gaza, Israel has completely cut off any access to international aid, which has been the only lifeline for the strip. And as the IDF begins its invasion, the Zionist state is causing yet another mass displacement.

The further advance on Palestinians in Rafah now, most of whom are effectively caged in, makes an already disastrous situation increasingly horrifying. Over the last seven months, Israel has killed over 34,000 people, including over 14,000 children. Over 77,000 have been injured, many who are critically wounded, and dozens of children have died due to malnutrition and dehydration. According to a recent UNDP report, with over 370,000 homes in Gaza destroyed, it will take 80 years to rebuild the strip. This fresh assault, furthermore, comes days after the horrific discovery of mass graves at Gaza’s two largest hospitals, Nasser and al-Shifa, where hundreds of bodies were uncovered — some with evidence of torture and being bound.

Israel Doesn’t Want a Ceasefire

The advance on Rafah comes as new rounds of peace talks between Hamas and Israel are underway in Cairo, overseen by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States. Over the weekend, Hamas officials announced that it had accepted the peace proposal made by Egypt and Qatar, which included a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the ability of displaced Palestinians to return to their homes, and an exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. Israel, however, rejected the proposal saying that it didn’t meet its core demands. And despite mounting international pressure, Israel’s war cabinet voted Monday to push forward with the operation on Rafah.

For weeks, the Israeli regime — answering to the country’s Far Right, which has been increasingly calling for an invasion and a “total victory” — has signaled that it would invade Rafah to destroy Hamas battalions in the region irrespective of whether a peace deal is reached. It is this sentiment that Netanyahu reaffirmed just last week, saying, “we will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there – with or without a deal, in order to achieve total victory.” For the Zionist state, the threat of Hamas is only a political cover for its hopes to expand its influence in the region through a brutal removal and extermination of Palestinians from their lands. Indeed, despite rejoining the negotiations and its claim to guarantee the return of hostages, Israel has only advanced its military operations on the strip to entrench its control in the region for months and years to come, even beyond any ceasefire deal.

For its part, the United States — Israel’s most important ally — has ostensibly attempted to set some limits to an escalation of ground operations in Rafah and is trying to mediate in negotiations to broker a solution out of the crisis as a way avoid being dragged into a regional war. In the face of increasing domestic turmoil due to the genocide and the weakening of U.S. hegemony globally, the Biden administration has signaled that an invasion of Rafah would mark a “red line.”. 

Yet, despite Netanyahu’s continued guarantee of the said invasion, Washington has continued to politically and militarily support Israel, from continuing to supply weapons, to giving it cover in international geopolitical institutions. Indeed, even following the recent escalation that precipitates an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, White House officials have said that while the operation has them “concerned,” it falls short of what they were “worried” about and doesn’t cross said red lines. 

The bipartisan regime has therefore shown that it is united in its political support of the Zionist state. Indeed, even in the face of widespread protests repudiating Israel’s genocide and the United States’ complicity in it, both parties are united in the task of preserving the settler-colonial Zionist regime, which exists as a key outpost of U.S. imperialism in the region. To maintain this historic alliance, the U.S. regime has unleashed new hells onto those protesting the genocide, militarizing and brutally repressing students on college campuses across the country. It has prioritized the quelling of Palestinian solidarity over halting Israel’s bloody assault.

Workers and Students Are Showing How to Fight Back

But Gaza doesn’t stand alone. 

Since the first days of Israel’s assault, from Jordan, to France to the United States, tens of thousands have mobilized across the world, demanding an end to the genocide, often even in the face of brutal repression at the hands of their political regimes. In the streets, universities, and workplaces, a new generation of radical youth have risen up, demanding not just a ceasefire, but also calling for an end to the apartheid state and a free Palestine. Anti-Zionist Jewish youth have marched lockstep with Arab youth in solidarity with Palestine, saying loudly that anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism. In the United States, young workers have stirred the labor movement by passing a slate of ceasefire resolutions, despite the interests of their union leaderships. Answering the call of Palestinian trade unions, workers in countries like Belgium, Italy, Spain, and India have organized work actions to block arms shipments to Israel. 

And amid this groundswell of solidarity with the Palestinian cause, in imperialist cores like in the United States — which has long served as the foundations for the reproduction of Zionism — there is an increasing questioning of the state of Israel and the role of U.S. imperialism alongside it. As recent polls have shown, only 36 percent of people in America approve of Israel’s destruction of Gaza, while an increasing number of young people favor Palestine over Israel. Only 12 percent of Americans under 30 believe that Biden — given the moniker “Genocide Joe” by the streets – is striking the right balance in Israel’s war.

In perhaps its most audacious expressions, thousands of students across the country have risen in open rebellion against the imperialist regime and the institutions that work with it, setting up Gaza solidarity encampments at their universities and calling on their institutions to divest from the state of Israel. And in one of the most significant shows of student-worker solidarity, faculty across universities have stood up in solidarity with their students, organizing protection chains, to rallies, to sick-outs, to strike authorization votes to repudiate the brutal repression of their students at the hands of university administrations that have worked with the state to curtail the movement.

And despite the attempts of the administrations and the state to severely repress and criminalize these protests under the guise of stopping “antisemitism,” the wave of student protests has only inspired new generations, as solidarity encampments have sprung up all over the globe, from Mexico, to Scotland, to Germany and beyond.

In the face of new horrors unleashed upon Palestinians by the Israeli regime, new generations of radical youth are leading the charge and dealing a significant blow to the Zionist consensus, inspiring the working class to stand hand in hand against the machinations of the imperialist regimes. The unity of this radical youth with the strategic power of the working class can play a decisive role by stopping the gears of production, including on key aspects such as the production and distribution of weapons to the state of Israel. In that lies the kernel for a crippling resistance to the Zionist regime — one that can fight to halt the assault on Rafah and the genocide in Gaza, an end to the occupation, and for a free Palestine.

As Bisan, a young Palestinian journalist who’s become the voice of Gazans under siege, says, “for the first time in our lives as Palestinians, we hear a voice louder than their voices, and the sound of their bombs, and even stronger than their control over all aspects of our lives.”

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Sou Mi

Sou Mi is an activist based in New York City.

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